Ben Dotsei Malor
Articles, General News

GHANA – WHERE IS OUR TRUE HEALTH PRIORITY?By Ben Dotsei Malor


(ALERT: PLEASE, slightly long but IMPORTANT post – spare a few minutes)
Current reports in the media indicate that the Speaker of Ghana’s Parliament, the highly regarded Honourable Alban Bagbin, is due to travel at a crucial time for Parliament and Ghana, to Dubai for medical reasons. Though this is the second time in two months that the Speaker is leaving the shores of Ghana to seek medical treatment abroad, this write-up is not about him, per se. THIS IS ABOUT THE HEALTH OF A NATION. PLEASE, THIS IS NOT A PARTISAN POST BUT A PATRIOTIC PURSUIT.
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FACTS: It is common knowledge that the President, the Vice-President, and the Finance Minister have all had to fly out of Ghana – over the past few years – to seek critical medical attention abroad. It is believed that several high-level public servants have got it enshrined in their conditions of service to seek and receive medical help externally or overseas anytime they have the need.
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ENTOURAGE: In fact, the last time Speaker Bagbin had to fly out for medical attention, there was a hullaballoo over the size of his delegation, i.e the number of assistants, aides, and medical personnel that had to embark on the trip with him at the expense of the average tax-paying Ghanaian.

AVERAGE GHANAIANS: We must also be mindful of the fact that the average Ghanaian is not afforded this privilege of seeking top class medical help abroad. The farmers in my home village of Ohawu can’t say, “What is good for goose, is good for the gander.” They can’t get angry and say, “All animals are equal but some are more equal …” And if Ghana’s political elite – who should provide the best amenities and services for the people – opt unashamedly to use the people’s money to seek better health abroad then what should the people do?
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USA-CANADA: For just a moment, kindly ponder a situation in the USA where President Joe Biden, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, or Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen have all, at one time or the other, travelled up north to Toronto or Ottawa in Canada to seek medical attention. Let’s further consider another scenario, where the US President travels to Moscow to get important and urgent medical attention that he couldn’t get in the best hospitals of Washington DC, (Walter Reid, for example,) New York Presbyterian or any other top facilities in Los Angeles, Houston, Harvard, or Johns Hopkins. I believe you’re arguing in your head, “Ghana is not America,” or “Why is he stretching this so far?” You are right, but I’m certain you’ve caught the full import of these considerations.
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FORMER PRESIDENTS: I’m also certain that others will raise examples of how the late President John Evans Atta-Mills had to seek medical help in South Africa and in the USA when he was terribly afflicted, as he was striving to lead Ghana to a better place. This simply reinforces the critical point I’ve made earlier that this is a patriotic issue and not a partisan one. It is also worth mentioning that former President John Kufuor, who could have gone abroad to have surgery on his back chose admirably to have the operation done at home in Ghana, with Ghanaian medical personnel.
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RAWLINGS: On a sad note, however, some have opined that late President Jerry John Rawlings would have been alive today if he had been flown outside for medical help, just as the current top political/public servants have enjoyed and continue to enjoy. I consider this debatable and an affront to the highly professional, deeply dedicated, and hugely committed doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel in Ghana.
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“THE MEN”? Now to the critical matter of the quality and standards of Health Care and Health Care delivery in Ghana – or the lack of it. Are we saying that Ghana – after more than 60 years of political independence – is still unable to provide medical facilities that could be compared favourably with the best in London, Berlin, Oslo, Dubai, Johannesburg, New York of Washington DC? Though we cannot really claim, “… we have the men” in all sectors of Ghanaian life, I believe we can say, with some level of confidence, sincerity, and pride, that in the Health Sector, “Ghana has the men and women!”
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HEALTH IS WEALTH: If, as the saying goes, “Health is Wealth,” then we are clearly demonstrating that Ghana is poor – and very poor indeed. (Yes, we can try to dilute the substance, song, and spirit of this assertion by bringing up the fact that it’s not only Ghana that suffers from this malaise.) Our giant neighbour and brother, Nigeria, has a president who has regularly sought medical help from top doctors in London. In fact, a former Nigerian president, whose ill-health was badly “hidden” or handled for many months, ended up dying in Saudi Arabia. One of Africa’s liberation heroes, the late Robert Gabriel Mugabe, was seeking medical help in Gleneagles Hospital in Singapore when he died and had been flown back to his beloved Zimbabwe in a casket.
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KEY QUESTIONS: This then brings us to the critical questions:

  1. Why do Ghana’s top political and public servants continue to seek medical attention outside the country at public expense?
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  2. Why are we suggesting, indirectly and openly in costly fashion, that our Ghanaian surgeons, doctors, physicians, medical technicians, nurses, and other health practitioners are not good enough?
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  3. What would it take for Ghana to have either a world-class specialized hospital or hospital wing that is so highly developed and enhanced that any medical intervention can be done there successfully, just as could be done in the best hospitals abroad?
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  4. What would it take for Ghana to develop the new multi-million dollar state-of-the-art University of Ghana Medical Centre into a top-class international medical facility, where the best care could be provided to our President, his Vice, the Speaker, and any other prominent Ghanaian, like our top chiefs, military officials, police personnel or most treasured Ghanaians?
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  5. If UGMC becomes acknowledged as a world-class medical centre, with great results and outcomes like any top hospital in the West, shouldn’t President Buhari of Nigeria and any of his top officials find it easier, quicker, and better to fly for just 90 minutes to Legon, instead of the six or seven hour flight to London?
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    FAILURE: In my humble opinion, a nation that cannot provide the best health for its President (or Speaker) at home is a nation that is fundamentally flawed, failing, and faltering, and must be pitied. In addition to the financial cost for the nation and her citizens, it must also be considered a top national security issue, as well, if our most important citizens are desperately seeking medical help abroad.
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    TIMING: Talking about cost and implications of top officials seeking medical help abroad brings us back the situation of the Speaker of Ghana’s Parliament, who is having to abandon his crucial functions in parliament, at a time of great angst and upheaval in the country over the vexatious e-levy. Just consider the cost to the political fortunes of Ghana. Any concerned Ghanaian must also be wondering about the state of health of the Speaker – unless there is open or transparent communication surrounding what is afflicting him.
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    Let’s face it, the leader of North Korea is not flying out any time soon to Seoul for medical attention. Dr Mahathir Mohammad in Malaysia will not be travelling to neighbouring Singapore for surgery. The truth is it’s the failure of whole nation when (or if) their national leaders continue to travel outside the country for health. It means there is no wealth from health in GHANA.
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    CONCLUSION: I dare conclude that, any Ghanaian leader, who fails to build or develop a specialized hospital or hospital wing that can successfully cater to every medical need in a world class manner, is not worth his or her salt. Period.
    PEACE. PROGRESS. PROSPERITY.
    My voice has fallen.

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